Out British singer/songwriter MNEK is only 23 but the rising young star is high on the “Ones To Watch” list for his soulful pop. He’s also breaking the glass ceiling of being an out, black British pop star who writes his own songs. He recently spoke with Billboard about telling his story through his own specific point of view.
Speaking of the writing, I feel like this is really a narrative driven album and I’m wondering are these your own stories or just stories that might arise from being a black gay man?
It’s more so from the point of view of these are my real stories. These are my true stories. I think the only song that isn’t biographical is “Girlfriend.” I don’t think I’ve been in that before, per se, where there’s a straight guy trying to be my boyfriend. But the messages I wanted to put in the album, I wanted to put things that just made people think and that mirrored their own experiences. The perspective that I come from when I sing, when I perform, is of who I am as a black gay man. So it’s a mix of all of that together and hopefully that poses as a template for some of other, younger artists which I never had.
Not to be like the martyr or king of whatever but I’m excited about what I’m doing, and the people that I can reach.
More info from the press release:
On September 7th, Capitol Records released Language, the debut album from MNEK. The 23-year-old U.K. artist already has one billion streams to his name, between his early material and wider collaborations. After writing and producing for such artists as Beyoncé, Dua Lipa, Little Mix, Madonna, Diplo, MØ, Rudimental, to name a few, MNEK now puts his formidable talent in the service of his own artistic vision. Download / stream Language HERE.
His new single, “Colour” featuring singer/actress Hailee Steinfeld, reached a massive 25 global New Music Friday playlists and streams have surpassed 50 million. The FADER said, “It’s brimful of rainbow metaphors and positivity and everything you probably need more of.” Streams of the album’s first single, “Tongue,” now exceed eight million.
“Correct” – another track released in the leadup to the release of Language – also won widespread praise. Billboard observed, “‘Correct’ busts out an array of MNEK’s flows for a swaggering, hyperactive display of his songwriting chops, his smooth voice hopscotching over a skittering beat.” PAPER Magazine hailed the song as “a call-to-arms for queer people the world over to command the respect we deserve, not to mention a catchy, grimy, island-riddim bop if there ever was one.”
“This album for me is not just about making records,’ MNEK explains. “It’s not just about having hit singles. I think it’s really about rectifying that thing which, for me, I just never had someone to look up to.” He points out that the brilliant white gay pop stars at pop’s top table today had a brace of icons to walk in the footfall of – from Elton John and Freddie Mercury through Pet Shop Boys, Boy George and George Michael.
“Then you get to Luther Vandross. Amazing. So talented. But he never came out because of fear of religion and his mum,” says MNEK. “I saw that and I thought I don’t want to be like that. The black experience is a different one. I needed someone to hear my truth from.”
Language is an album that subverts all preconceptions, cleverly playing on its own extensive pop knowledge and reframing it as something brand new. When the familiar sample from Ultra Nate’s “Free” is chopped and screwed through “Paradise,” two tracks later MNEK presents his own utopian song called “Free.” These little touches are its making.
MNEK signed his first publishing deal at age 14. “Never Forget You,” his duet with Zara Larsson, topped Billboard’s Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart and has been certified 3x Platinum in the U.S.He featured on Duke Dumont’s “Need You (100%),” which earned a GRAMMY® nomination for Best Dance Recording. The list of artists MNEK has written and produced for includes Beyoncé, Dua Lipa, Little Mix, Madonna, Diplo, MØ, Rudimental, Julia Michaels and Stormzy, to name but a few.
“It’s a moving and important work, and one that reminds us why MNEK is the pop star we need in 2018.” –NME ****
“An assured and stunning pop patchwork… joyous and slammed with hits, it’s worth the wait” – Q Magazine ****
“[MNEK] knows what it takes to make a hit and tell a story. If previous releases like ‘Tongue’ are any signifier, Language will bang.” – OUT
4. Gibberish (Interlude)
6. Colour (feat. Hailee Steinfeld)
8. Honeymoon Phaze
10. Hearsay (Interlude)
13. Crazy World
14. Be (Interlude)
16. Touched By You
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